I think it’s time to stop being critical of my own accomplishments.
I’ve noticed that I don’t give myself any credit for what I have accomplished – only for what I am currently working towards.
Even when I achieve my goals, I’m too quick to shift the goalpost a little further away.
I thought this was serving me well, to keep me motivated, honest, and avoid resting on my laurels. But I think it actually undermines my enjoyment.
For example, a few months ago I began daily extensive reading practice in Mandarin. My Chinese practice has been eclectic and irregular for years, but I was so inspired by the theory of extensive reading that I bought a graded reader for my kindle and got reading right away.
In the space of a few weeks I went from level zero to level two, from a core vocabulary of 150 words to 450. I went from a story about a boy looking for a missing horse, to a two-book adaptation of Great Expectations.
Each step of the way I began wanting more. Not more of the same, but more challenging, more expanded, more realistic, more enjoyable.
Right now I’m doing intensive reading of a Chinese webtoon about Court drama and intrigue. But at no point along the way have I stopped to reflect on how far I’ve come. Instead I’m self critical: I hardly understand enough to follow the story. My tones are still crap. I can’t write.
How about appreciating that I can understand a lot of what is written? No, because I immediately expect to be challenged, tested, and criticised by others.
That’s an old expectation based on past experiences with people who were basically a***holes, who never mastered a foreign language themselves. It doesn’t serve me.
Perhaps I could instead remember my fascination with Chinese characters from many years ago, and how I imagined being able to read and understand them? And while I can’t understand them all, I can understand more than I could before.
Besides, if English literacy is my benchmark, perhaps I need to appreciate that the mark is extremely high? I’m literate to an extremely high degree, but I never take the time to appreciate that either.
Do I like being able to read any text in English? Do I like knowing that nothing is too difficult for me to decipher? Well, no, I feel almost nothing. Where is that pride supposed to resonate in me?
Perhaps I was told that pride in my own abilities was tantamount to putting others down. Or perhaps my abilities themselves were disparaged and ridiculed. Maybe both. Don’t look down on others, they haven’t had your advantages! Besides, what good has it done you in life?
If you are accustomed to looking down on yourself under the guise of objectivity, virtue, and being honest, it may be hard to recognise the absence of healthy self-esteem and pride in your abilities, satisfaction in your interests, and love of your accomplishments.
What’s the point in being effective at your endeavours if you don’t love and appreciate them? For that matter what’s the point of having any endeavours if you don’t love and appreciate yourself?
I think that’s ultimately why I keep creating these goals, while simultaneously undermining them and demanding more of myself. I’m so used to disparaging myself that I both yearn for, and cannot allow myself, a reason to feel good.
The answer is choosing to feel good right now, without looking for an excuse. Feel good about myself simply because it feels good, and should be natural and normal for anyone raised in a supportive environment.
Choose to feel good about yourself, and let go of the endless cycle of chasing accomplishments that seem to amount to nothing. We were taught completely the wrong way around: it’s feeling good about ourselves that inspires and energises us to do the things we love, regardless of the outcome. That’s how it’s meant to be, and that’s what I’m signing up for.